Husband and wife team Carla Benini, an agronomist, and Edoardo Ventimiglia, a film director, had long dreamed of abandoning their city jobs in Rome and escaping to the beautiful Tuscan countryside. They finally made this dream a reality in 1990, buying a run-down house and just one hectare of vines, which they chose to farm organically from the first. With the help of their oenologist friend Attilio Pagli, they created the first vintage of Sassotondo in 1997, and have been making highly original, gorgeous wines ever since.
The pair now own 11 hectares of vines, all situated within the Maremma Toscana appellation in the coastal Grosseto province of Tuscany, which was granted DOC status in 2011. The farm is not far from the town of Pitigliano, and is also near the Bolsena volcanic basin, a factor that is crucial to Sassotondo’s success: the volcanic compressed sandstone soils, tufo, is full of minerals, and its poor quality encourages vine roots to dig deeper for moisture. The farmhouse is also built from tufo, and the cellars are dug deep into a tufo cliff, 14m underground where the barrels can age in the perfect natural humidity and temperature. The tufo even gave the estate its name: sasso tondo means ‘round stone’, and is the name of a weather-beaten tufo rock that lies in the grounds of the farm.
The farm totals 52 hectares in size, with vines interspersed with olive trees, and surrounded by pastures and woodland. Vineyard management is assisted by consultant Remigio Bordini. Of the 11 hectares of vines, three are white (trebbiano, greco, and sauvignon blanc), but the majority are Tuscan red varieties, the most important of which is ciliegiolo, an ancestor of the Chianti grape, sangiovese. This grape grows perfectly in these conditions, and most of Sassotondo’s plantings have an average age of 35 years, although Carla and her husband do also use some new vines which they planted in the 1990s. Some sangiovese is grown in addition to the ciliegiolo, as well as a proportion of alicante, the local name for grenache.
The grapes are all harvested by hand, and each variety is vinified separately in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally, and the wine then spends several months ageing in tanks, as well as three months in bottle. The wine The Society purchases is 90% ciliegiolo, with 10% alicante, but Sassotondo also makes a 100% ciliegiolo red called San Lorenzo.
The company logo represents the vine rows, the sassotondo stone, and the mountains in the background.